Tuesday, May 31, 2011

So yesterday, this happened...

A fried-to-order-doughnut.

Stuffed with coconut cream custard.

Doused in chocolate ganache frosting.

And coconut flakes. And more...coconut custard.

This, my friends, is the kind of debauchery that takes place at Gourdoughs food trailer on South Lamar in Austin.

I can't tell you why but the whole thing reminds me of a scene from True Blood. It's just so...naughty. Only there's no sex. Or is there? Because there sure as hell are plenty of happy endings flying around. But I digress. Let's look at Exhibit B...

Do you know what this is? I'm not sure I should even tell you. It's really, really bad. In fact, I'm not going to tell you because I can feel Satan's presence just talking about it.

Okay, okay I will tell you because I love you and know you need that hit of sugar just as bad as I did yesterday. Deep breath...

This is a doughnut filled with chocolate brownie batter with a truck's worth of homemade chocolate covered brownie chunks (still warm from the oven) on top then doused in...hot fudge icing and chocolate chips. It's named - appropriately - Black Out.

Here are the two of them together. Conspiring. Evil little vixens... But more importantly, how are you? Are you okay? Have you been struck by lightning yet? Quick - confess and all will be forgiven. Or then again, just go to Gourdoughs. They're open until 1 am tonight.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Juicy Lucies (cheese-stuffed burgers) with Texas Tapenade

Have you ever had a Juicy Lucy? I hadn't even heard of them until I moved to Minneapolis several years ago. I have to say, they may be the sole reason worth suffering through a midwest winter. A Juicy Lucy is just a burger with a pocket of gooey molten cheese hidden inside. Our favorites were the lucies at Adrian's Bar and Grill - a wonderful old dive bar in south Minneapolis. Dang they were GOOOOD...

Adrian's I believe were made with cheddar but cheddar didn't seem quite right with turkey burgers for some reason so I decided to try a trio of white cheeses here and wasn't disappointed. The accompaniment - Texas Tapenade - is more a sun dried tomato pesto than a true tapenade, the Texan element being jalapeno stuffed olives. If you don't have those on hand, feel free to substitute regular jumbo green olives or even kalamata or black olives along with a good pinch of red pepper flakes for that southern heat wave element. Yeee haw!

PS - don't be upset if your burgers separate into two patties by the end of cooking exposing the cheesy goodness inside. That's just Lucy flirting with you....

Juicy Lucies with Texas Tapenade
Serves 4.
* The tapenade is great on crostini or with crackers as an appetizer or snack or on any number of sandwiches.

1 package (1.3 pounds) ground lean turkey
1/4 cup minced shallots (2 regular)
1 garlic clove, minced
zest of 1 large lemon
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper
4 English muffins, toasted or griddled

In a large bowl, combine the minced shallots, garlic, lemon zest, parmesan, salt, and pepper with a fork until evenly mixed. Add the turkey meat and gently combine with your hands trying to incorporate everything evenly but not overwork the meat. Set aside while you make the juicy filling.

Juicy Filling:
3 oz goat cheese
2 tablespoons parmesan
2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella
good grating fresh nutmeg
fresh cracked pepper
dash salt
splash half and half or heavy cream, just enough to bind all the cheeses together without making it too wet/mushy

Mix the cheese, nutmeg pepper and salt together with fork. Add JUST enough half and half or heavy cream to help them make friends and bind being careful not to make it to 'wet' as you'll need to form the mixture into little patties. Once combined, use your hands to make little flattened discs. I confess to getting 5 out of them and only 4 burgers of the meat mixture, so you might want to reserve the 5th patty for another use (cracker spread/etc.)

To form the juicy lucies, gather enough ground meat in your palm (about the amount it would take to make a jumbo sized meatball or a thin hamburger patty.) Gently press and turn with your hands to make a patty, ensuring you'll have enough of an 'edge' around your cheese disc so that you can seal it. Set the patty on a greased surface then set the cheese disc in the center. Create another thin patty out of the meat mixture and place it over the cheese disc. You'll need to carefully pick it up and turn the juicy lucy in your hands as you gently press and crimp the edges together, ensuring you've got a good seal. Set aside and complete the rest of the patties. (After forming, you can either refrigerate for up to 8 hours, covered, or cook right away.)

To cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season the burgers on the top sides with salt and pepper. Grill or pan fry until golden on both sides - about 4 minutes per side, ensuring you don't have too high a flame so that the cheese melts through but doesn't liquify too early in the cooking process and leak out (also be careful when flipping - remembering your delicate little package inside.) Transfer to the 400 degree oven for 5 minutes to cook all the way through. Remove and let 'rest' for five minutes, lightly tented with foil, before serving.

Serve with Texas Tapenade (below) on toasted English muffins.

Texas Tapenade Ingredients:
3/4 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained (reserve oil)
1 clove garlic
2 jumbo jalapeno-stuffed green olives (or regular jumbo olives plus a pinch of red pepper flakes)
zest of a small lemon (or half a large one)
2 tablespoons pine nuts (toasted)
2-3 sprigs boxwood (pistou) basil or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1-2 teaspoons oil from the sun dried tomatoes
fresh cracked black pepper

Texas Tapenade Directions:
If you have the time or energy, give the sun dried tomatoes and garlic clove a rough chop. If not, just chuck them all into the blender and pulse a few times. Add the green olives and pulse again until there are no large chunks of olive left (unless you like your tapenade on the chunky side.) Add the lemon zest, pine nuts, basil, oil from the sun dried tomatoes and some fresh cracked pepper and pulse again until well blended. Decide wether you want to add more oil or not (there is a never ending battle at our house between my husband and me - I like my pesto on the drier side - he the liquidy side...) make any adjustments necessary and either refrigerate for up to 3 days before using or serve right away.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Individual Spinach and Basil Gratins

The one thing I will never understand about entertaining is having to cook while talking to people. I can't do it. I have terribly vivid nightmares (real, honest to God memories, actually) asking people to please leave me be in the kitchen for 5 minutes so I can 'get it together.' Martha Stewart I am not.

But recipes like this make me look like I have it together...simply because I make them ahead of time, refrigerate them (even a day before!) then just pop them in the oven when company arrives. This I can emanage while talking and enjoying a cocktail...

Spinach and Basil Gratin
* Serves 2 (recipe is easily doubled, if need be.)
* Corn makes an amazing addition to this if desired. Just stir in 1/2 a cup of thawed frozen corn or fresh corn cut off the cob before you stir in the cheese.

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 4 golf ball sized shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise then cut along the diagonal into 1/8 inch thick slices)
pinch salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, finely minced (or can sub a few shakes dried garlic powder)
hefty grating of fresh nutmeg
1/4 cup brandy
4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, leaves removed
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup shredded parmesan, plus extra for topping
1/2 cup corn, optional
pinch red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/4 teaspoon, if you like things on the salty side)
2 tablespoons seasoned Italian bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350, if making right away.

Heat the butter in a medium nonstick lidded skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots along with a pinch of salt and pepper and saute until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes more. Add the nutmeg and stir in, then add the brandy. Bring the mixture up to a boil over high heat and boil until the brandy has evaporated. Lower the heat to medium low and stir in the spinach leaves. Put the top on and cover for 1 minute so that the spinach wilts. Once wilted, stir in the basil and thyme, half and half, parmesan, corn if adding, red pepper flakes, and additional salt. Reduce heat to low and stir until cheese has melted and all is well blended. Set aside.

Meanwhile, grease 2 4"x4" ramekins with nonstick spray. Evenly distribute the spinach/basil gratin between them, then put the bread crumbs over the top along with the desired amount of additional parmesan. At this point you can either let them cool for 30 minutes before covering and refrigerating overnight or bake off right away.

To bake, put in a 350 oven for 20/25 minutes until bubbling. Kick heat up to broil and cook for 2-3 minutes, just until cheese/breadcrumb topping begins to turn golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Balsamic Marinated Strawberry Salad with Red Onions and Goat Cheese

My new favorite summer salad. Don't skimp on the fresh black pepper - it takes it to another level. With all the bright, sharp flavors going on here, I can't help but think of this as an adult version of a strawberry milkshake. With every bite, my taste buds want to scream 'Summer!'

And to make it even more summery, it requires minimal energy on your part. No whisking up a complicated dressing or cutting up lots of different ingredients.

Viva La Summer!

Balsamic Marinated Strawberry Salad with Red Onions and Goat Cheese
Serves 2.
* Strawberries and balsamic vinegar should be combined and refrigerated at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours ahead of time.
* If you don't have lemon flavored olive oil, use regular and give the berries a spritz of lemon when you add the oil.

4 large strawberries, stems removed and quartered
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Pinch salt
Good grating fresh black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon flavored olive oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion (about 1/4 of a medium red onion)
4 kalamata olives, pits remove and broken into small chunks with your fingers
Additional pinch salt and more pepper if desired
1/2 cup croutons
Couple hefty handfuls fresh basil leaves
1 handful fresh mint leaves
Pinch boxwood basil leaves, optional
1 oz goat cheese, divided, or more to taste

Add the quartered strawberries, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to a large ziploc or plastic container. Toss well, seal and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 8 hours.

Remove from fridge and add 1 tablespoon lemon flavored olive oil. Let sit while you slice the onions, then add the onions to the berries. Break up the kalamata olives and add to the mixture along with another pinch salt and pepper. If you are nearly ready to eat, stir in the croutons and set aside (you want them slightly softened by the vinegar but not obliterated by it.) If not, wait until five minutes before you eat.

Meanwhile, plate a handful of fresh basil leaves per salad plate along with some freshly torn mint and/or other fresh herbs (some boxwood basil leaves are fantastic!) to your liking. Divide the berry/balsamic/onion/olive/crouton mixture between the plates over the top of the herbs, then the goat cheese, breaking up into bits with your fingers.

Serve right away, with additional fresh cracked pepper if desired.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

After Cabo, we will return to our regular programming...

Darling fellow cooks, food whores, and friends who like to put things in their bellies. I know I've been absolutely CRAP at blogging lately. I won't give you excuses - I respect you too much. But I will say that I head out for Mexico tomorrow for the first real vacation my husband and I have had in years and I promise to be better when I return.

In the meantime, keep those pans hot and thank you so much for checking in. It will be worth your while when I get back.

Happy summer, y'all.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Farrotto. Purely simply fabulous.

Happy Meatless Monday y'all! I have to admit, I haven't posted a Meatless Monday recipe before because we eat a LOT of meatless meals and not just on Mondays (I like to see how many in a row I can get away with before Kris complains.)

Farrotto is simply farro (whole grains of wheat) cooked risotto style. What I love about it is it's healthier than traditional risotto yet heartier at the same time. You can eat it as a meal without the guilt of ducking into a bowl of creamy rice (or at least I believe you can.) And as an extra bonus, you don't need to heat the chicken stock before adding it throughout the cooking process. You can pour it straight from your measuring cup or from the box, as I do;)

Feel free to sub roasted butternut squash for the acorn squash. I'm telling you - there's something bizarrely amazing about the natural sweetness of roasted squash with the subtle roundness of maple syrup a with the salty kick of gorgonzola. I know it sounds weird if you've never tried it in a savory context but I promise you it's not.

PS animal lovers - you can make this completely vegetarian if you sub veggie stock for the chicken stock.

Farrotto with Lovely, Lovely Things
Serves 6.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup Farro
2 1/2-3 cups low sodium chicken stock
olive oil
1 acorn squash, peeled, cut in half and seeds removed
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup thawed frozen corn
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup gorgonzola plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons maple syrup
fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400.

In a medium/large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the onions and saute for 4 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and saute 2 more minutes until onions are completely translucent. Season with a bit of salt and pepper, then bring the heat to high and add the white wine. Stir constantly as the wine evaporates and bubbles - 2 or so minutes. Once mostly evaporated, stir in the farro and reduce heat back to medium. Stir constantly for 2 minutes, then add in a half a cup of chicken stock, stirring in. Let softly simmer, stirring occasionally, until mostly evaporated (soaked up by the farro) before adding another half cup. Continue this process until the farro is to the risotto-style consistency you like (start checking the consistency after you've added a little over 2 cups.) If you happen to run out of stock and need more, you can add water. Like the mom says in Friday - 'It won't hurt.'

Meanwhile, cut the halved squash into quarters, then into eights. Turn the sections sideways and cut them crosswise into thin, 1/8 inch thick pieces. Grease an aluminum-lined large baking sheet with nonstick spray and add the squash pieces, evenly distributing them. Drizzle with olive oil just to coat, add in the cherry tomatoes and toss all to lightly coat with oil before patting back down to get them all spread out again. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 16 minutes. Turn over with a spatula and roast another 8 minutes or so until nice and caramelized, but not blackened. Remove and add into the farrotto (once it's to the consistency that you like.)

Gently stir in the corn, black beans, maple syrup, pinch salt and pepper, gorgonzola and basil. Taste for salt and pepper and make any adjustments necessary (I actually like a lot of pepper with this and I'm not a pepper person.) Serve in deep bowls, garnished with additional gorgonzola and basil.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Neely's Fish Tacos with Cilantro Chipotle Slaw

Perhaps today's historical significance deserves something more historical than fish tacos. But that's what we were eating last night when we found out. I still can't believe it.

Anyway, after watching the Neelys make this on Saturday, I wanted to make them that night. Unfortunately I decided to go for a run that afternoon forgetting it was 90 degrees out and by the time I got back had to lie down. Fish tacos were no longer in the cards but I still dreamt about them.

At Sunday brunch I fantasized about...fish tacos. So after an unhealthily expensive trip to Whole Foods for fresh halibut I finally had them for dinner. They lived up to my expectations and then some (marinate the fish longer than half an hour though!)

What is it about something hot off the grill drenched in lime juice? And salt? And cilantro? Pure lust.

One word of warning though. The chipotle in the cole slaw will actually get hotter the more it sits. So if you make it way ahead, maybe start with half a chipotle then taste before serving. You can always mince up more chipotle to add it in, but you can't take it out once it's in there!

Fish Tacos
1 cup buttermilk
1 jalapeno, sliced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Juice and zest of 1 lime
handful roughly chopped cilantro
1 1/2 pounds center cut halibut, skinless
Olive oil, for greasing grates
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Hefty grating freshly ground black pepper
Flour or corn tortillas
Olive oil, for grilling
Cabbage Slaw, recipe follows
Lime wedges, for serving
Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving

Add buttermilk, jalapeno, smoked paprika, lime zest and juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper to a large resealable zip top bag. Add the halibut and let marinate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

Once hot, brush the grill grate with some olive oil. Remove the fish from the marinade and gently pat dry with paper towels. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Add to the grill and cook 5-8 minutes, or until grill marks have appeared. Very carefully flip to the other side and cook another 5 or so minutes until cooked through. Remove to a plate and break the fish into chunks. Sprinkle with lime juice and a touch more salt.

Grill tortillas until warm and soft and they have a few charred marks.

To assemble the tacos, place a nice spoonful of the fish onto the center of a warmed tortilla. Top with the Cabbage Slaw. Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro leaves.

Cilantro Chipotle Cole Slaw:
1 (8 oz) package cole slaw cabbage mix
3 tablespoons minced red onion, or more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 chipotle, packed in adobo, finely minced (I use half of one)
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste

In a medium serving bowl, toss together the cole slaw mix, red onion, and cilantro. Set aside. In a separate (small) bowl, mix together the sour cream, minced chipotle, lime juice, honey, salt and pepper.

Add the dressing to the cole slaw mix and toss gently but thoroughly. Chill for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours before serving, using as a topping for your tacos.